In order to embrace the new opportunities, ideas and perspectives that an education presents, Peter says it's important to be prepared—and what's more important than getting ready for your very first day of school?
- Create a level of excitement for the first-day-of-school experience, Amy says. "We look at school as … an exciting time in your life—meeting new kids and learning new things—and we try to instill that in our kids," she says.
- Breed familiarity. Amy says she frequently took her son for walks past his school before he started kindergarten so that he would get used to the location and the school grounds.
- Get your child ready for learning at home, Amy says, with educational toys, games and, above all, books!
- Prepare for school the night before, Amy says. Pick an outfit and have your child pack his or her backpack in the evening to make getting out the door in the morning that much easier.
- Avoid smothering your child when you drop him or her off for school on that first day, Amy says. This will help them make a smooth, emotionally healthy transition to school.
Based on her experience, Cathy shares with Peter the skills and knowledge she says kids need before they start the school year in order to be successful:
- How to have a routine: "If [students] have good routines at home, it's very easy for us to give them good routines at school," Cathy says.
- How to cooperate and work as a team member: Cathy says parents should arrange for their children to participate in activities where they can learn to play cooperatively before school starts.
- How to read and count: Cathy says kids who learn their numbers and the alphabet at home are generally more successful in school. "Not just reading to them, but having the children see you read as an adult," she adds.
- How to experiment: Engage kids in hands-on activities, such as baking cookies or art projects, to give them an educational edge, Cathy says.
"There's going to be life four years from now that you will be totally responsible for, so it's a transition of having maybe mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandma—whomever may be your primary caregiver—kind of turn over the reins to you, and that you will be in control," Dr. Mansfield says.
Karen says parents can help smooth the transition with the following advice:
- Don't do everything for them. Let your child get his or her own credit card, pay the bills and pack, Karen says. "If not everything gets done they'll learn there are consequences," she says. "It's a way of showing them that you have some faith in them—that they can do it themselves."
- Learn about resources at your child's college. When parents are informed about tutoring, dining, health care and other resources on campus, it helps relieve anxiety, Karen says. "They can then be a coach to their kids when their kids do run into problems instead of trying to jump in and solve the problems for them," she says.